How to Care for Your Washer and Dryer

Your washer and dryer are indispensible, and replacing them is expensive. Cleaning your washer and dryer and taking proper care of them will help prolong their lives and keep them in good running order.

Maintaining a washing machine

To clean tub interiors, use pure citric acid crystals, which you can find in grocery stores and drugstores. Fill your main soap cup and then run the washer. Doing so removes mineral deposits, lime, and soap buildup, all of which affect the pump's operation.

If you find rust stains inside the tub, try a professionally installed plastic tub liner before considering replacement. You can make temporary patch-ups on small nicks in the porcelain where rusting occurs with a dab or two of enamel paint or clear nail polish. A better solution is a porcelain repair kit made for bathtubs, available at your local hardware store.

If your water outlet hose drains into a laundry basin, cover the end with an old nylon stocking. Doing so collects 95 percent of all lint that otherwise would go into your sink's drain line.

If your cold water is running slowly, turn off the water inlet valves, remove the water hoses, and clean the small screen filters, which are probably clogged with mineral buildup and debris. The fine mesh filters are usually at either end of the hose or on the back of the washing machine's water inlet port. If debris gets past these screen filters, it can damage the pump and lead to a costly repair.

Also consider switching from rubber water inlet hoses to long-lasting braided stainless steel hoses.

Maintaining clothes dryers

Clean the lint screen in your clothes dryer thoroughly after every load. In addition to making the dryer work extra-hard, dryer lint is a big fire hazard. Therefore, you should clean the dryer duct at least twice a year. The easiest means of cleaning a short dryer duct is with a dryer duct cleaning brush, which looks like a miniature version of what a chimney sweep would use.

If you have an excessively long (20 feet or more) dryer vent leading outside or to the roof, make a vent-cleaning tool by fishing a nylon line from outside to the vent hose mounting inside (after removing the big, plastic, accordion-type flexible dryer vent exhaust hose). Then tie a nylon brush — one that's big enough to brush the vent walls — to the line, which can then be drawn up into the vent, leaving enough line on the other end to draw it back again. When you're finished, leave some line exposed outside and, pulling the inside line off to the side, reattach the accordion-type flexible vent hose and let the brush and excess line lay off to the side for the next vent-scrubbing episode.

To prevent damage due to excess moisture, a dryer duct should always terminate at the home's exterior — never in the attic, basement, or crawlspace.

Regardless of the length of your exterior vent, periodically remove the flexible accordion-type exhaust hose and vacuum it out. Lint buildup reduces efficiency, wastes energy, and can cause a fire by preventing superheated air from passing freely.

Excess lint in a clothes dryer exhaust system is an accident waiting to happen. Aside from in the lint screen and the dryer duct, lint can accumulate at the bottom of the housing that contains the lint screen. An easy means of removing this lint is to construct a custom vacuum hose attachment by using a short piece of rubber hose, the cap to an aerosol can, and some duct tape. The cap acts as an adapter that fits over the end of a wet/dry vacuum hose. Make a hole in the center of the cap the size of the outside diameter of the hose. Insert the hose snugly into the hole and attach the two with duct tape. Attach the cap to the end of a wet/dry vacuum and insert the hose into the filter housing until it reaches the bottom.

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If you have an electric dryer, never open the door mid-cycle without first turning the dial to the air-dry mode or advancing the timer to shut off the heater. Otherwise, the red-hot heaters allow heat to collect inside the unit until it triggers the thermal fuse. The fuse is a built-in safety mechanism that works only once; after it goes off, a service technician has to fix it before your dryer will operate again.

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